The finance ministers of China and South Korea skipped a meeting of finance chiefs from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations plus Japan, China and South Korea on Friday in India, officials of the two countries said.
The ASEAN-plus-three meeting was to be the only opportunity for the finance chiefs of the three East Asian countries to meet on the sidelines of the Asian Development Bank's annual meeting starting Saturday, as their trilateral meeting during the event was cancelled amid signs of discord.
The governor of the People's Bank of China was also absent, according to Japanese Finance Ministry officials.
A South Korean finance ministry official told Kyodo News that the country's finance chief was absent as he was "busy" with domestic issues and he was "disappointed" that he was not able to attend the meeting.
The Chinese finance minister was not able to attend the gathering due to "a domestic meeting," according to a Chinese government official.
China did not send its finance chiefs to the International Monetary Fund's annual meetings in Tokyo in October, after Tokyo infuriated Beijing last September by purchasing three of the five main islands in a group administrated by Tokyo, but claimed by Beijing, in the East China Sea.
A former senior Japanese Finance Ministry official, who is in India to attend events related to the ADB gathering, said the absence of the Chinese and South Korean finance chiefs from the ASEAN-plus-three meeting was "apparently because of a deterioration" in Japan-China and Japan-South Korea relations.
Chinese and South Korean vice finance chiefs attended the meeting instead.
Japan's relations with China and South Korea have worsened amid heightened tensions over territorial disputes. Recent visits by Japanese politicians, including Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso, to a controversial war-related shrine in Tokyo have also fueled friction.